Top Ten

March 10, 2015

YorkU picketers victims of hit and run

picketers at York University sustained minor injuries in a hit-and-run that the union is describing as an "act of violence and aggression." One of the picketers was taken to a hospital. The other victim, Terry Conlin, said that a man got out of his car and threw aside a safety barrier that picketers had erected across a roadway. The driver demanded that picketers move, then "accelerated, and not gently," said Conlin, who was picked up on the hood of the car as the irate motorist drove for several hundred metres. YorkU President Mamdouh Shoukri said that his "thoughts are with [the injured] at this difficult time. This unfortunate incident is a critical reminder to all community members of the need to be vigilant in respecting the picket line. Frustrations can escalate when faced with a temporary delay in entering or exiting our campuses." The union was set to vote on a new offer last night; results were not yet available at press time. Toronto Star (Hit and Run) | Toronto Star (Vote) | CTV

NB Faculty Associations President questions UNB's spending during 2014 strike

Faculty in New Brunswick are raising questions about the University of New Brunswick's spending during last year's faculty strike. A right-to-information request from local newspaper The Daily Gleaner revealed that UNB spent over $315,000 on public relations and security help during the labour dispute. Federation of NB Faculty Associations (FNBFA) President Jean Sauvageau said that the money could have been better spent elsewhere. "They are fully equipped, it seems to me, on the inside, to handle these situations, so why they felt the need to go outside and sign these expensive contracts is a mystery to me," he said. Sauvageau speculated that the reliance on outside help may have been the product of a business-oriented approach to running the university, with an emphasis on cutting costs and making money in the face of inadequate government funding. CBC

QC student activists hoping for a second Maple Spring

An article in the National Post reports on the surging activist movement in Quebec. According to the article, QC student activists are hoping for a second Maple Spring, and this time, they have set their sights on a "true sharing of wealth." Much of the activists' work has centred at Université du Québec à Montréal, where faculty recently issued an open letter condemning the actions of "self-proclaimed, sometimes masked, commandos," whom they said were disrupting classes and intimidating faculty and staff. In late February, demonstrators took part in a week of protests against provincial austerity measures, including cuts to PSE. UQAM political science professor Julien Bauer said that the activists, emboldened by what in their view was a victory against austerity during the Maple Spring of 2012, are hoping to instigate more change. Students are reportedly planning a walkout on March 25 to call for "the abolition of austerity measures" as well as "a stop to all hydrocarbon development and transportation projects," among other demands. 9 student associations representing 16,000 students have so far voted in favour of supporting the strike, with 62 more associations planning their own votes. National Post

AB students can use Aeroplan points to pay down student loans

Students in Alberta are now able to repay their student loans using Aeroplan points. Innovation and Advanced Education Minister Don Scott described the province's Higher Ed Points program as "a really innovative way to address a student loan." Scott noted that "anyone can donate their points to support any student pursuing their goal of postsecondary education ... If you have friends that travel a lot hopefully they'll be quite excited to help a student with their education." The Higher Ed Pointssystem also allows students at a number of Canadian PSE institutions to pay tuition fees and other expenses with points. Tyler Ludwig, President of the student association at Concordia University College of Alberta, said that he appreciates seeing more options for students looking to pay down their student debt, but noted that most students are unlikely to have that many points to use. Still, he said, "I think it provides an opportunity for parents to pitch in in a non-monetary way." Metro News

UOIT, MRU programs receive accreditation

The University of Ontario Institute of Technology's program in Forensic Science has received full accreditation from the American Academy of Forensic Science's Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Achieving FEPAC accreditation requires that programs meet strict standards for course material and assessment methods, and that graduates demonstrate a high level of practical ability. FEPAC-accredited programs are also required to have ongoing affiliations with forensic science labs and law enforcement organizations. UOIT's program is reportedly 1 of just 2 programs in Canada to achieve FEPAC's highest level of distinction. Meanwhile, Mount Royal University's aviation program has been granted a 5-year accreditation by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI). The distinction reportedly makes MRU just the second aviation program outside of the US to achieve AABI certification. "We've received the gold seal of accreditation when it comes to aviation education ... This is further recognition that our program meets stringent standards of quality, and it's also a strong indication that we're providing a relevant education experience to our students," said Leon Cygman, acting Chair of Management, Human Resources, and Aviation at MRU. UOIT News Release | MRU News Release

Survey shows collaboration with Mitacs supports business innovation

Mitacs has released the results of a longitudinal survey that examines the impact of its Accelerate program. 95% of industry partners who responded to the survey said that the Accelerate program successfully met their corporate needs, 92% said they would recommend Accelerate to others, and 88% said they would participate in the program again. 66% of industry partners said that the projects they worked on with Mitacs have been or will be commercialized, and 40% said that they invested $100,000 or more of new money into research and development as a result of their experience with Accelerate. 74% of respondents said that they realized increased value for R&D and innovation, and 62% said that they continued to develop research from collaborative projects after their relationship with Mitacs had ended. 30% of companies hired at least one of the graduate student research interns they had worked with through Accelerate, and 47% said that they had engaged in new collaborations with the academic sector. Mitacs News Release | Full Report | Infographic

uWaterloo researchers link smartphone use to lazy thinking

A new study from researchers at the University of Waterloo suggests that an over-reliance on smartphones can lead to "lazy thinking." The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that persons who are intuitive thinkers—that is, those who typically rely on instinct when making a decision—are likely to rely on their phone rather than think through problems themselves. "They may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it," said Gordon Pennycook, co-lead author of the study. Study participants who had stronger cognitive skills and who were likely to engage in analytical thought were less likely to rely on their phones than intuitive thinkers. Researchers say that their findings suggest an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence; they also suggest that a reliance on smartphones may have consequences for an aging population. uWaterloo News Release

Controversial documentary examines sexual assault on US campuses

A controversial documentary film that tackles sexual assault on US campuses is set to be released to theatres on March 20. The Hunting Ground purports to expose "a shocking epidemic of violence and institutional cover-ups sweeping college campuses across America." It features clips of college and university presidents who say they take sexual violence "very seriously" juxtaposed with examples of victims who say that they were discredited or ignored by their institutions. The film makes the provocative claim that many institutions are more concerned about their application statistics than victims' well-being, and work to protect the interests of fraternities and athletic departments to protect enrolment numbers and alumni donations. The documentary has received a mixed reaction: while the filmmakers have said that they had a moral imperative to make the film, a Slate review describes it as a polemic that fails to "engage the current conversation about this issue," doing "its subjects—and us all—a disservice." The Chronicle of Higher Education | Slate | Maclean's

Researchers calculate cost of developing and delivering MOOCs

Researchers at Brown University and Columbia University have calculated that the cost to an institution of launching a massive open online course (MOOC) may be as high as $325,000 in some cases. The study's authors interviewed 83 administrators, faculty members, and researchers at US PSE institutions and conducted case studies to determine a method for effectively calculating the cost of launching a MOOC. They found that the main factors in driving up the cost include the number of faculty members, administrators, and instructional support personnel needed; the quality of videography; the nature of the delivery platform; the programming required for special features, such as auto-graders, virtual labs, or gamification platforms; the analysis of platform data; and the technical support required by participants. Personnel costs ranged from about $29,000 to as much as $244,000 per MOOC, with total costs ranging from nearly $40,000 to over $325,000. The researchers recommend that future studies of MOOC effectiveness include cost analyses to determine whether spending on production and delivery bears any relation to learning outcomes. eCampus News | Full Report